Civil engineering in New Zealand: could you make the switch?

British ex-pat engineer, Chris Perks, Transport Sector Director for environmental and engineering consultancy, Tonkin + Taylor, discusses making the move from the UK to New Zealand in 2010 and his work for the national highways agency.

Chris Perks
Chris Perks
  • Updated: 29 January, 2018
  • Author: Chris Perks, Transport Sector Director, Tonkin & Taylor

Ask me about moving down under and I’ll give it to you straight. You get a greater variety of work - unique, complex and landmark projects that grow your skills and experience.

Climbing the ladder

Since arriving, I have climbed the ladder at a formidable pace since arriving and attribute some of that to Kiwi culture. As a Birmingham trained, ICE Chartered Engineer, I am now the Transport Sector Director for environmental and engineering consultancy, Tonkin + Taylor and responsible for approximately 30% of the company's annual revenue. I still have to pinch myself… I've landed my dream job, a decade earlier than I had hoped and the pipeline of work here is strong and healthy.

The construction industry in New Zealand continues to be buoyed by strong immigration and ongoing earthquake remediation. But it's not all awesome, I'm a long way away from my parents and with a new baby girl that's a bit of a challenge... but the lifestyle, blue sky and endless sunshine help balance that up.

Outside of work, we enjoy great weather at nearby beaches, as well as changing nappies and expanding the nursery rhyme repertoire. Back at the office, I’m busy winning T+T's transportation projects, including Pūhoi to Warkworth; an 18.5km, four lane motorway extension North of Auckland.

Landslip in New Zealand
New Zealand is in the middle of the largest infrastructure

An engineer’s role in New Zealand’s infrastructure

New Zealand is currently in the middle of the biggest infrastructure boom in history, which is very different to what I was used to. In the UK many of the motorways were already built, so I was normally working on improvement schemes, often widening a small section of road, or designing a bigger bypass. In New Zealand, the starting point has been a blank map, so I've worked with teams to draw every line, identify the corridors and identify where the best option was".

By determining New Zealand's infrastructure, engineers are playing a pivotal part in shaping the country and its future. So the jobs are not without pressure, and the same goes for working on earthquake recovery programmes. When the 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura Earthquake struck at two minutes past midnight on 14 November 2016, a resulting – not to mention humongous – series of very large landslides destroyed over 200km of the rail and road network, shutting down the main transport links between NZ's North and South Islands.

Engineers, scientists and planners have played pivotal roles in the recovery from advisors to government, technical lead on rail remediation, environmental protection, landslide stability to restoration of harbour facilities. The current spend on infrastructure is unprecedented in NZ and the Aussies are throwing billions into transport too. The AU$11 billion Melbourne Metro is the biggest infrastructure project in the country. The twin rail tunnel under the Yarra River will be 9km long, so it might require one or two geotechnical engineers!

This is a sponsored case study provided by Tonkins+Taylor. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of ICE.

Tonkins+Taylor are a New Zealand based Environmental and Engineering Consultancy with offices in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and the wider Asia Pacific region.

Interested in working down under?

You're in luck! Following the success of their UK recruitment campaign in 2017, Tonkin + Taylor are once again encouraging engineers living in the UK to explore new job opportunities, enjoy work/life balance and create a new life in Australasia.

T+T are recruiting a number of roles in various locations across New Zealand and in Melbourne. These include Civil and Structural Engineers, Highway and Transportation Planners, Water Resource Engineers, Geotechnical Engineers and Landfill Design Engineers.

T+T will be in London at the 'Down Under' Expo on February 10 - 11 to chat to people about work, lifestyle and project opportunities. A team of senior engineers will be conducting face to face interviews from 12 – 16 February, job applicants have until 8 February to apply.

Can't make it to the expo? Head to the Tonkin + Taylor careers site and take a look at some of the vacancies T+T are hiring for now, including: